STAFF REVIEW of Family Feud 2012 Edition (Xbox 360)

Monday, November 14, 2011.
by Matt Paligaru

Family Feud 2012 Edition Box art Family Feud is a game show that has been a staple in my life since I was a child. Back then, Ray Combs had taken over for the legendary Richard Dawson and turned it into a hit both in syndication, and on ABC. I lived and breathed Family Feud. I never missed it in my summers off from school. I spent so much money renting the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis versions that I probably could have bought one of them, if they weren't so tough to find. Needless to say, when XBA Towers designated me their game show review guy and said Family Feud was being buzzed down from the 102nd floor, I was excited. When I found out Steve Harvey blooper videos were in it, I was looking forward to a game chock full of the usual sass and vigor only Harvey could bring to it.

The day finally arrived. Off came the wrapping, and out came the surveys. Time to play the feud!

For those unfamiliar, Family Feud is a simple game with simple rules, and a simple objective - Score 300 points before your opponent, and make it to Fast Money. In Fast Money, you and a partner are given a fixed amount of time to answer 5 questions, of which you must obtain 200 points to win the grand prize. Your family consists of 5 related participants (hence the show's name)

The game starts off with the familiar current generation Feud set, where the audience sits behind the stage. Strange, but it's been this way since John Hurley was host, and they revamped the set. There are 2 basic gaming modes: The Challenge, which is a series of 16 themed event games. You must not only win each game, but you must win the Fast Money round too to successfully access the episode's unlock, which will be a Steve Harvey blooper video. Your opponent is the computer. There's the Party Mode, where you can play each other head to head with up to 4 controllers. That's it, but you really don't need anything else. These rules have been the basic rules of operation since Family Feud originally took to the air in 1976. Bear this in mind.

The Challenge Mode is where we will begin, where you place your Avatar at its place on contestant's row, and are then joined by the rest of your fake family. Or not. The game begins with howevermany human contestants you have joining you. If you're alone, you are the only person that stands at the entire 5 person podium. That's kind of sad. That poor little avatar, left to battle 5 computer controlled drones. You can have up to 4 human controlled players on your side, however, they must be carrying their own avatars, meaning if you don't have enough friends logging into their profiles locally (or enough dummy profiles on your own system,) they don't play. Make sure you make peace with your achievement seeking friends too, as the game will tell you with no uncertainty that the only person that gains achievements is the lead profile. You can choose from easy, medium or hard difficulty, and begin your road to Feudal supremacy. If you are playing for achievements, please keep track of what you've beaten on which difficulty, as you must beat all 16 challenges on all difficulties for achievements, and the game will not visually show you which you've beaten. This is forgivable since many games suffer from this simple oversight, but irritating all the same.

Party Mode is essentially just a fun exhibition-style mode. Since everybody is player controlled, there are no difficulties, however, the same rules and same awkward lack of fake family drones still apply. Again, if you have 3 human players on one side, and only one on the other, that is all you will show up to play. You also cannot customize the name of your family. They simply share the name of your gamer profile (so, for example, everybody in my group was simply "MattandLaura's family")

Lack of family members aside, once you have confirmed that you're playing, you are greeted by the host, whose name escapes me, but it sure isn't Steve Harvey. For those familiar with the show "Parks and Recreation", he looks like a blonde bouffant haired Ron Swanson that sounds a bit like Phil Hartman with John Hurley's diction. His name escapes me, but it's Scooter, or Skip McShooterdooter or something strange like that. The name's irrelevant. It's not Steve Harvey, who I was expecting to swagger out on stage, look at my avatar and say "You like this suit playa? It's from the Steve Harvey collection. You know how many buttons this suit got playa? FIFTEH!"

In this game, Family Feud consists of 4 rounds. The first and second rounds are single point values, while the third and fourth are double and triple, respectively. The basic premise of this game is that 100 people are asked a survey question. 1 person from each side goes to the front of the set to guess on their team's behalf. Top answers are up for guessing, and after the hosts repeats the survey question, you're left to the task of trying to guess what the top answers were by being the first to buzz in and get the highest rated answer on the board. After choosing to pass or play based on how you did up there, your team gets 3 strikes and one is given each time you have an incorrect answer. After you have exhausted your strikes and if you have not guessed all of the answers, the opposing team gets the opportunity to steal your points by trying to guess one answer off the board.

Here comes another Fundamental Flaw: If neither team guesses an answer off the board at the beginning, the round ENDS, and the next one begins. It doesn't even go to the next family member for a guess like it has since the beginning of the real game show's life, or (even better than just ending the round), switch to a new puzzle. No, the round simply ends, meaning that with 8 incorrect guesses in a row, your game could be declared a draw, and everybody gets sent home.

Answering itself is fairly stock standard. A selection pad will appear on screen for you to pick out letters and form words. At the top of this pad, words will auto-form based on the letters you've chosen and appear for you to quick pick with the use of the bumpers and triggers. These auto-words appear on all difficulties, and basically, if you'd like an easy way of finding an incorrect answer - type in your answer and if it doesn't autocomplete after a couple letters, it's going to be incorrect since it isn't in the database anyway. There's no way for you to turn this off at all, which begs the question - what are the difficulty modes for? One would think that in a game of this nature, autocomplete could be justified for easy difficulty, but maybe not for hard, right? The only difference between easy and hard is the frequency of which the computer misses an answer. The computer will miss every so often on easy, but never on hard. If you don't get it right the first time, consider the round stolen. Well, that's annoying.

With over 2000 survey categories, this was bound to happen, but some of the questions are ridiculously outdated. Ask 100 people today, and I guarantee the 2nd most popular TV detective will not be Kojak, nor would Magnum PI even crack the list. Nevermind the decade-long efforts of the likes of Gil Grissom, Horatio Caine and even Monk, America still believes TV's most popular TV detectives are still Columbo, Thomas Magnum and James Rockford. This, as a result, may prove difficult for most people born in the 1990s and beyond, as many of the questions appear to be holdovers from previous eras of Family Feud, and even previous video gaming incarnations. You would not get the idea from the way the questions are laid out, however. There are no references to alcohol, violence or anything remotely dangerous, the game has an extremely cartoony feel (often feeling like a Wii game at times) rather than the edgy nature of the game show itself.

Once you reach fast money, it's set up the same way, however, once again violates many of the fundamental rules of Family Feud, some which are so bizarre there's almost no way in my mind of justifying how truly absurd this is. Each of the 5 questions has its own timer, of which the host will stop the fast money round to acknowledge he received your answer and move on. This is a process that can take, well, an infinite amount of time, since you may have discovered by now that you can simply pause whenever you like at anytime. Timers essentially mean nothing since you can take as much time as you want using this simple kink in the armor. At the outside of your questions, the host would normally go over the answers with you, show how close you are to 200 points and bring on the next family member to answer again. Since this game continues to march to the tune of its own drum, this does not happen. Instead, your second family member is brought up to their answers right away, and then the host will go through both answers simultaneously. Rather than doing it in one set per person, both peoples' answers will be displayed for the one questions, and results brought up. This is a fairly ingenius, ridiculously conventional way of catching up to all of the time lost from slowing down the initial pace of the Fast Money round, but it just doesn't work. The current formula has worked properly for the last 35 years, and I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to change things up. You also are not told what the number one answer was if you miss it in Fast Money, however, I believe only one Feud game in history has ever displayed the best answer (the Facebook version), so it's not something you can really hold against this game.

A trademark feature of Family Feud happens to be the ambiguous answers shouted from time to time. Everything from the infamous "Naked Grandma" burglary incident of the Steve Harvey era, to former WCW wrestler Rick Steiner answering "6000" to a question related to what types of repairs need to be made to cars frequently. This game offers strange leeway to ambiguous answers you give it. For example, it will happily change your answers in Fast Money to something its ideal display answer, however, it cannot differentiate between some very simple assumptions. For example, entering clothes as something you wash every week is incorrect, however, the more ambiguous laundry is the correct answer. On the flip side, entering "Gel" as something a bald man does not need to buy will automatically be changed to "Hairspray" and accepted perfectly. I don't fault Ubisoft much for this, as accepting assumed answers/accompanying intelligence must be a very difficult thing to program, and I can see this being problematic for years to come should this franchise continue. It may be time to start cleaning it up, however, before voice commands become the way of video game communication, and this cycle starts all over again.

Now then, successfully win a challenge mode Fast Money round, and you will unlock a Steve Harvey blooper clip. The aforementioned "Naked Grandma" clip is first, so you know these will be good. It will just take a little bit of time to get there. Be ready for a long year ahead Family Feud fans. This isn't the game you're used to.

Graphics: 4/10. The set looks fine, and the avatars look good and do not clip with them at all, no matter what you are wearing. That's it, however. The crowd is not very animated, and the avatar interaction with other is awkward at best. The Harvey clips themselves are not high definition (though the rest of the game appears to be) either. The graphics themselves just appear to be a bit too simplistic overall. They're comparable to the Xbox Live 1 vs. 100 game, which was offered for free to Xbox Live Gold customers. This isn't a full priced retail game, however, so maybe I'm expecting too much, however, this just looks too much like a Wii game to think that there was much more done than taking that game and making it playable on the 360.

Sound: 3/10. There are a lot of sound omissions in this game that are simply unforgivable to Family Feud fans. There's no victory music when you win Fast Money, no trademark support from the rest of your family ("Good Answer!") and worst of all, the trademark theme song barely plays. There's an odd 15 second loop from the middle of the song that plays over the title screen, and the only time you hear the familiar strains of the opening is when the announcer welcomes you into a confirmed game. All of the other appropriate Feud noises and SFX are in place, but with so much major missing parts, it's hard to offer passing marks.

Controls: 3/10. There's not much to the control structure here. Basically, you just need the A button to confirm everything, and submit your answers. The constant presence of autocomplete, however, and no visible way to remove it may be the single thing that wrecks this game the most (nevermind the major flaws and strange rule changes.) Having your answers spoiled before you submit them just kills a huge part of the experience. The controls are boosted slightly by the fact that it's chatpad compatable

Gameplay: 1/10. If I were to start this at 10, and shave even a quarter of a point off for everything that was just so inaccurate, incorrect or irrational about the gameplay, it would probably have reached 0, however, I will offer solace in the fact that it still is Family Feud. It's just not a very accurate or terribly fun depiction of it. The idea of turning a game show into a video game seems pretty easy on the surface. Have your devs watch a few hours of the show to capture the essence, develop your code around said essence and go from there. Instead, what Ubisoft has developed here is the shell of a game show I've watched since I was 6 years old, and done things to it that not even the creators could conceive doing. If you're familiar with other game shows, the changes they've just gone ahead and thrown out here would be the equivalent of releasing Wheel of Fortune where Pat Sajak hosts and turns the letters, leaving Vanna White to kick her feet up and drink a martini, or a game of Lingo where Chuck Woolery decides he's not going to give you any letters, or Shandi Finnessey -- ever. This game follows almost none of the basic principles or gameplay logistics that have existed in the last 35 years, and it's puzzling as to why. I just don't understand why it a brand new gameplay experience had to be created. It's still the foundation and groundwork of the old Family Feud - It's just so different that you have to wrap your head around why someone would do this to a trusted franchise. To fully bring into perspective where my feelings for this game are after being a lifelong fan of Family Feud, this like waiting months to see Star Wars Episode I, and witnessing Skip McLooterbabooter the host Jar Jar Binks it up. This is madness.

This game show has been on and off TV since 1976, with the same basic principles, objectives and rules. Why has Ubisoft taken it upon themselves to change the basic way the game is played 35 years later? These aren't subtle gameplay flaws either. When has Family Feud continued after one family gets 300 points? When has the fast money round been played immediately back to back, with the answers displayed horizontally (both answers at one time before moving on to the next question?) When has "Family Feud" meant a 1 person family?

With all apologies to Ubisoft, and all respect to their successful gaming franchises, there should not be a 2013 edition unless it's made authentic to the TV show. Pay Steve Harvey for his licensing time and voice, pay attention to the quicker pace of the game, and please pay attention to the little details, which make such a huge difference in these types of games. Let's also see the rules return to what millions of people the word over are used to as well please.

Oh well, I still like it better than the Louie Anderson era of Feud.

Thanks for taking a look at our review of Family Feud. Come join the gaming conversations with us on Twitter. We're available @XboxAddicts, and you can find me @Paliontology. Happy gaming!

Overall: 2.7 / 10
Gameplay: 1.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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